April 22 is Earth Day, an annual celebration to protect the environment, which dates back to the 1970s. Every year on this day, China organizes activities throughout the country to raise public awareness of environmental protection.
China has made great contributions to global ecological conservation. For instance, its afforestation program has created more new forest than in any other country. The total area of wetlands under protection in China ranks among the largest worldwide.
Three of China's recent environmental initiatives deserve attention. The first is the Shan-Shui Initiative. Shan-Shui means mountains and rivers. The initiative is the largest ecological restoration project in China. Since 2016, the Central Government has supported 44 projects for restoring vital ecosystems, including forests, grasslands and waterways in regions of importance to national ecological security such as the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, the Yellow River basin and the Yangtze River basin, covering 27 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities. The initiative was recognized by the UN as one of the World Restoration Flagships.
The second is the protected area (PA) system, which focuses on national parks. This system plays an important role in promoting harmony between humans and nature and protecting biodiversity. China has established around 10,000 PAs, accounting for 18 percent of the country's total land area. The well-planned PAs have brought 90 percent of terrestrial ecosystem types and 71 percent of key state-protected wildlife species under effective protection.
The third is the establishment of an environmental zoning system known as ecological conservation redlines. In addition to the ecological protection offered under the PA system, redlines have been drawn around areas that perform critical environmental functions or that are especially vulnerable, applying stringent measures to protect them from the potentially harmful effects of industrial development and urbanization. This innovative model now covers 3.15 million square km of ecosystems such as grasslands, wetlands, mangrove forests, coral reefs and sea grass beds, as well as undeveloped and uninhabited islands.
However, China and other countries are still facing prominent environmental challenges, such as sandstorms, loss of biodiversity and water pollution. All of these need to be met with continuous action. Earth Day reminds us to take these issues seriously.